A TEMPESTUOUS afternoon at Easter Road ended with Kris Commons picking up a hamstring injury that means he will almost certainly miss Celtic’s vital Champions League meeting with Ajax on Tuesday night.
The loss of another go-to man in the wake of Scott Brown’s suspension comes as a desperate blow to Neil Lennon. It is a game, he concedes, that Celtic cannot afford to lose.
Lennon’s frustration did not begin and end with Commons, however. Hibs opened the scoring with a goal that should clearly have been ruled offside. On top of that, the Celtic manager was heavily critical of Hibs’ physicality.
“I haven’t looked at the goal but I didn’t need to,” said Lennon. “You can see he [Paul Heffernan] is at least a yard off. I’m not here to criticise officials but when it’s as blatant as that, you have to ask ‘why did you miss that?’”
On the loss of Commons, Lennon said the player knew instantly that he was in trouble. “He knew straight away, he felt a pull. We don’t think it’s a tear but if it’s a strain it’s at least a couple of weeks, so it’s not looking good for Tuesday. It’s a huge blow. Commons has been fantastic this season. He’s at the top of his game, in great physical condition. He just stretched for a ball and felt something.”
Lennon, right, was furious at some of the tackles put in on his players, though that is not how Commons suffered his injury. He called some of the challenges “absolutely shocking and reckless”. “I’m all for competitive football, but seriously, they were borderline tackles. I didn’t really say anything to Pat [Fenlon] but I made my feelings pretty clear to the fourth official. I don’t think it was any player targeted in particular, it was across the board. Even the ones at the end. Without singling players out, the tackle by [Rowan] Vine on [Darnell] Fisher was rugby-esque.
“We’ve got a big Champions League game and I’m not asking any favours, I don’t mind teams being competitive, and the physicality of the game was good but I felt it was over the top. We’ll play Hibs again, though...”
“Look, I’ll get criticised because people will say it’s a man’s game, and it is, no question. But the tackles were late, high, reckless. You lot are asking the questions so you must see it as well. My opinion may be different from Pat’s. He’ll say he sent his team out to get in our faces and I don’t mind that at all, but the ref should take more of a grip on it sometimes.”
Fenlon said he was delighted with his team’s physicality. When asked for a response to Lennon’s accuations, he said he was happy that his team have finally got the message that they have to be in the faces of teams in order to get a result. “Neil is entitled to his opinion,” he said.